June's La Tela: Traveling with children
Sent on 24 June 2022

By now you know that in 2019 we sold everything we owned in Marbella and left with our work (two computers), two suitcases and two backpacks for an adventure around the world. On my blog, you'll find a collection called  traveling with kids with many travel articles from recent years (including mini-guides for different cities).

Today we're talking about traveling! In this email, you'll find 3 foundation premises, 6 cobwebs of thoughts about traveling with children and 6 practical tips that have made a difference for us.

3 foundation premises

  1. It's not true that when you have small children you have to abandon the idea of ​​traveling. On the contrary, in the first years of a child's life it's much easier to travel as a family (besides, thanks to your children you'll often have preferential treatments 😉).
  2. Traveling is a habit that is created slowly: if we don't get used to traveling together, we can't expect to know how to do it (and that everything will go smoothly) when we finally decide to.
  3. This is a secret I've discovered in over 3 years of full-time traveling: children are exceptional travel companions! Exploring is a human tendency (did you know that?) and our little ones are sensorial students who want to practice it every day: just give them the opportunity, slow down and enjoy the magic.

6 cobwebs of thoughts about traveling with children:

  • Lower expectations: If your child is not used to traveling, you can't expect them to know how to travel. It's like going to a restaurant: if you never eat out and one day you decide to go because "my kid is old enough", you can't expect them to know how to sit and behave in a restaurant. Like everything, traveling requires habit and habits are built slowly. The first few times can be more challenging (or maybe not!), so start with a very clear idea: it's a training session. You'll get better!
  • Visualize your calm! This is the only expectation that you should have: that no matter what, you will remain calm (go ahead, visualise yourself remaining calm in a challenging situation!). The more you lose your cool, the more your children will lose it, too. On a plane ride, for example, with your child screaming at the top of their lungs, it's frustrating and you'll feel uncomfortable, because all eyes are on you: forget about the stares and judgments and just focus on this: “What does my child need and how can I show him that I am here to help them?”. Maybe it's just a walk through the aisles (and yes, if they already walk, they he can do it alone… Emily has done endless marathons back and forth the aisles of the plane!).
  • Your mentality is very important: if we leave home thinking that the holiday will be the same as in the pre-children era, it'll not feel like a vacation at all; but if we leave with the idea that it is a new adventure in which we will discover together what what can we expect and how to learn to travel as a family… then it'll be a memorable trip for everyone!
  • Plan plenty of time! Traveling is when we can really follow the kids because we have lots of time. This is the winning mindset: "plan" a vacation where you have plenty of time to just go with the flow! In Chiang Mai we invented a game called "Follow Oli": we would go by taxi to a part of the city that we wanted to visit and then with Emily in the baby carrier we would tell Oliver (then 4 years old) to take us wherever he wanted. We follow him and discovered the city (and many places that we wouldn't have discovered otherwise). And often Emily (2 years old) wanted to join in, so she would get out of her carrier and walk for a long time just to play the game. I think that's how they built their habit of walking.
  • Accept that it will be different for a while. Since children start walking until they are about 4-5 years old (the age depends on many factors), holidays will be more designed around them, and it's OK: if you accept it, you will all be happier. Our city sightseeings when Oliver and Emily were little went like this: a little walk in the morning, a playground for an hour, lunch, a little walk in the afternoon, another playground for an hour (or a children's museum), dinner, bed. And to go from one playground to another we tried to pass the "attractions" (monuments, streets, museums) that we wanted to see. 💁‍♀️
  • Prioritize less stressful places. After 3 years of traveling full-time, we realized that the famous places on bucket lists are disappointing (and also the ones we remember with less enthusiasm): the endless queues and crowded environments make for an explosive cocktail for a child (and an adult too!). The paths less traveled are the ones that remained in our hearts. While you are reading this newsletter, we are in Iceland and we have decided that if we don't have to pass through the famous Blue Lagoon, we won't even go there: we are sure that Iceland will have equally beautiful places, where we can keep the stress level as low as possible (which makes the difference when traveling with children). We'll find out special places.

6 practical tips that made the difference for us:

  • Choose where you stay carefully. Now Oliver and Emily are used to traveling and there is no need for this anymore, but when they were younger, when choosing a hotel or an Airbnb, we looked carefully at two things: that it was near a playground (or a park); that it was close to public transportation. These two little details made the difference in every place we visited.
  • Take turns. If you think you'll be able to stay in the pool or on the beach all day, your expectations are wrong. If you think you'll visit every corner of the city, your expectations are wrong. All this can happen (and it will eventually!) and children often surprise you, but more often, for this to happen, parents have to take turns: one plays with the child, the other relaxes in the sun; one takes the child to the playground, the other goes for a walk around the city. This doesn't have to happen every time, there will be many moments together, but these moments alone, doing what you love, will be like a breath of fresh air. If you come back from a vacation with your kids and feel like you need a vacation, chances are you haven't taken turns and created enough individual moments.
  • Snacks and games. When our kids were younger, on each trip we had: a mini blackboard with chalk to draw on or a magnetic tablet to write and erase, coloring books, notebooks with stickers, books to read and many, many, many snacks. Of course, for younger children (whether they have siblings or not), all the snacks and toys won't do much good if parents don't play with them: take turns on that, too. Here's an old post: "Two alternatives to screens that my kids love".
  • Television on the plane. You know we don't use screens at home or on the go (except half an hour every once in a while or a whole movie/documentary sometimes), but on longer flights we don't worry about the TV: it's right there in front of your nose, your kids see everyone using it, it would make very little sense to try to avoid it. Better to choose the programs carefully (there are many documentaries and even some more realistic cartoons) and use it with peace of mind. When the kids were younger, we prepared them well and limited their TV time, making sure they understood the plan (let's watch X minutes / X episodes, then wel'' do X). Now that they're older, we're much more relaxed: on the last 8-hour plane ride, we all watched TV for at least 6 of the 8 hours (it's an exception, and that's fine!). Then we did a detox (a few days without screens), that was decided by all: when you create healthy habits, they pay off.
  • TV in the car. It's all a matter of habits and being consistent with the habits we create. If you don't get your kids used to TV in the car and use it as an exception, that's what they'll ask you: Oliver and Emily are now 5 and 7, and on a 5-hour drive they expect to watch 30/40 minutes cartoon/documentary. The rest of the time, they play together with soft toys or listen to audiobooks, read books, color, listen to music…
  • Keep the bedtime routine the same. This is our traveling super power since always and it has made the whole difference for us many times. For long trips we try to put the children to bed at exactly the same time as always and we also maintain the same routine: on the plane they put on pajamas and brush teeth before going to bed (just like at home). Not even longer summer days make a difference in our routine, we just explain and stay calm if they take longer to fall asleep (which is normal). When we change time zones, we go to bed even if we are not tired and wait (patiently) for them to fall asleep: this greatly speeds up adaptation to the new time zone. Now we are more relaxed, but when they were younger, we tried to keep the bedtime schedule and routine even on vacation: we preferred to have beautiful days in harmony and for that to happen children needed their sleep and routine: if we were with friends, for example, we'd have lunch out together and dinner at home to go to sleep early. 

Do you want more?

If you want to read more about traveling with children, you can read read these two old posts on my blog:

Ideas to practice sense of time with children
Two alternatives to screens that my kids love

Happy Friday and see you in La Tela.

Hugs,
Carlotta

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Usually your newsletters is beautiful, engaging, interesting… This one, however, is super wonderful! 😍 Lots of practical but fundamental tips, such as lowering expectations, bedtime routines tricks, lots of real life stories… thank you for being there, as always! 🧡
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Hi Carlotta, your ideas are always precious. For a few weeks now my husband has been following you and a few days ago he signed up for your newsletter, so today we read together your reflection on couple arguments. Being both synched on "La Tela" makes me feel better and balanced, because it's a way of continue growing hand in hand.
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I just wanted to tell you that your newsletter couldn't have come at a better time, it was a light in a dark time. I will read and reread it, I will keep it in my soul for a long time and I hope it will give me the strength to know how to apply your advice in practice. Thank you so much.
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Hi Carlotta, thank you very much for your newsletter! On the day you send it, it's my very favorite time before going to work, you always give great ideas. Hugs!
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